News & Media

Answer needed on Covid €350 payment level ahead of crunch Dáil vote

25 May 2020

Statement by Ged Nash TD
Spokesperson on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform

- Will Fine Gael caretaker government cut the €350 payment later this week?

Labour Social Protection spokesperson Ged Nash has called for answers from the caretaker government on their plans for the €350 Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment ahead of a vote on the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection estimates on Thursday.

Deputy Nash said:

"We need to know now if enough money will be provided to the Department to keep paying the €350 Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment in the weeks ahead. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are prepared to cut the payment for some workers but they haven't told us the full details of their plan. 

"It would be wrong for them to cut the basic income of thousands of workers who are out of work through no fault of their own, when large parts of the economy are still shut down. The language being used is divisive and straight from the ‘welfare cheats’ playbook. It would mean the lowest paid in our economy are punished while higher earners retain their payments.

"Ahead of a crunch Dáil vote on Thursday on funding for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection we need absolute certainty that incomes will be protected until sectors are fully reopened. The Government won't publish the details of the estimate until Wednesday afternoon but it’s a simple yes or no answer on whether they are going to make major cuts.

“The language used by Fine Gael and some Fianna Fáil TDs to target those who have lost their jobs is straight out of the ‘welfare cheats’ conservative hard-man playbook the Taoiseach deployed when he was Minister for Social Protection. 

"Thousands of people who rely on part time hours, irregular and precarious shift patterns, and seasonal work will now be impacted by any cut despite large parts of the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors being closed.

"We have an economic crisis now due to the pandemic shutdown. The economy was placed in an induced coma to stop the spread of Covid-19 and the PUP and the Wage Subsidy Schemes were put in place to support incomes and businesses. 

“The €350 level was seen as the rate that people needed to live on, based on the kinds of wages those in the most affected sectors ordinarily earned. Those sectors are a long way from coming back and the payment should not be cut now. The same bills are still there with rent, utilities and all the other costs of living.

"Let’s not forget we are talking about people who were in employment until the State itself shut down the economy. These were people who were working, who wanted to work and who in my experience want to get back to work as soon as possible. It’s a bit much and is utterly divisive to be beating the welfare cheats drum at this time.

"What’s all the more bizarre is that it’s likely such a move to cut the payment will not even save much money for the State as people will be moved to other social welfare payments and then will be likely to move onto rent supplement and HAP, become eligible for medical cards and other benefits, or may seek to retrain. This would be penny wise but pound foolish."